The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part underwhelmed at the box office during its opening weekend, but why did that happen? In 2014, the original LEGO Movie proved to be a success, riding waves of positive buzz to $469.1 million worldwide against a $60 million budget. Surprised and impressed with how well the film turned out, audiences left the theater wanting more, and Warner Bros. delivered. The studio forged ahead with a full slate of LEGO film projects, which included two spinoffs and the direct sequel to the first movie.
After The LEGO Batman Movie and The LEGO Ninjago Movie came out in 2017, The LEGO Movie 2 finally debuted earlier this month. In terms of the critical reception, the followup was another winner for WB, with many praising the animated film for its heart, humor, and important life lessons. Unfortunately, The LEGO Movie 2 stumbled out of the gates commercially, coming in well under projections. Leading up to the film's release, it was estimated to earn as much as $55 million in its first three days, but actually made $34.1 million. There are a few reasons to explain this turn of events.
For starters, a case can be made the two spinoffs released months apart from each other ended up diluting the brand. LEGO Batman was a modest hit ($311.9 million worldwide), but franchise fatigue reared its ugly head by the time Ninjago came around. That film tanked commercially, tallying only $123 million globally. Its poor performance indicated the property was not critic-proof and didn't have substantial clout with general moviegoers. Compared to other players in the animation realm, like Pixar, Disney, and Illumination, WB's LEGO series lagged behind in terms of box office grosses - even when it was at its peak. Ninjago in particular was a hard one to bounce back from, as it essentially dampened enthusiasm people may have had for future installments. If anything, it implied viewers were starting to tire of the LEGO Movie schtick and couldn't get excited for more.
There's also the matter of the release schedule. The LEGO Movie 2 opened five years after its predecessor, which is a fairly long time. Obviously, the overall LEGO franchise didn't stay dormant for that stretch, but WB failed to strike when the iron was hot and instead prioritized spinoffs that potentially could launch their own series. In the case of LEGO Batman, it made some sense; Will Arnett's take on the Caped Crusader was a fan-favorite and the Batman mythos are rich enough to support a creative parody. But the studio definitely made a mistake by not getting LEGO Movie 2 out quicker to capitalize on the buzz. Granted, long-delayed animated sequels like Toy Story 3 and Incredibles 2 made $1 billion each, but not every franchise is created equally. LEGO Movie 2 certainly would have benefitted if it premiered a couple years ago, when the original was still fresh in everyone's minds. While The LEGO Movie was certainly popular in the moment, it didn't resonate as strongly as other animated titles (like those aforementioned Pixar works). This isn't to say people forgot about Emmet, Wyldstyle, and the rest of the gang in the interim, but the demand for The LEGO Movie 2 likely went down by the year.
Whenever a movie underperforms like this, some blame can also be pointed to the marketing campaign. Trailers for LEGO Movie 2 were not overly impressive and failed to sell the project as something that needed to be seen on the big screen. The biggest fault of promotion was positioning LEGO Movie 2 as more of a kids film than something with cross-generational appeal. That might have dissuaded older moviegoers (who don't have children of their own) from rushing out on opening weekend. All in all, these factors spelled trouble for LEGO Movie 2 and it'll be interesting to see if it can bounce back. With some high-profile movies on the horizon, WB may have to lick their wounds and re-evaluate the future of their flagship animated franchise. Clearly, everything isn't awesome anymore.